Friday, May 11, 2012

Political Parties Cannot be Defanged

... unless you adopt the following plan and get it on your state's ballot as an initiative:

I.  Eliminate government-conducted partisan primaries.  Require nomination by petition only for all elected positions.  Ballot-access petitions work for city governments, and independents generally have to use them.  Why not save the expense of one entire election every two years?

II.  Eliminate partisan labeling on ballots.  This will make it harder for semi-informed partisan voters to influence elections.  This is probably best combined with a free voters' pamphlet with a page or so of information provided by each balloted candidate; otherwise, you may end up with a lot of non-informed voters.

III.  Use approval voting.  Under this system, each voter is able to vote, once, for as many candidates as he or she likes.  One advantage of approval voting is that works equally well for both single-member and multi-member constituencies.  Furthermore, it allows philosophical allies to run in the same race without spoiling each other's chances, thus eliminating one of the main justifications of political parties.

IV.  Require legislators to arrange themselves regionally, rather than ideologically, on the floor of their chamber.  Ban the use of capitol rooms and facilities by partisan or ideological groups.  Rather than formalizing party blocs, legislatures could ensure that the minority is represented (on a committee, say, or among floor leaders) by using multiple-winner, one-member-one-vote systems.

This is not a ban on political parties per se.  I'm not in favor of banning parties or any sort of association.  This proposal simply aims to put parties cleanly on the civic side of the state-civic divide.  Parties could continue to endorse candidates, hold caucuses and fundraisers, and generally do as they please, as long as they don't breach that divide.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Political Posters

Need any right-wing posters?  Go to Political Posters.  These run the gamut from issue posters, like an anti-abortion one featuring Rosy the Riveter to general statements of principle of colonial thinkers.  There is a satirical one in bright red noting that Che Guevara was an anti-gay, anti-African warmonger.  Religious posters are broken out into Biblical posters and those featuring quotations from important Catholic leaders overlain on a photograph of a rosary.

You could base a detailed anti-socialist agenda around several of these quotations.  Socialism's basis in resentment is highlighted in several Churchill quotes, and its reliance on fiat money and debt is noted in quotes by Thomas Jefferson, Murray Rothbard, and others.

In several cases, the background information presented by clicking on the links is vital.  The quote, "The finest opportunity ever given to the world was thrown away because the passion for equality made vain the hope for freedom" is elaborated at the Right Posters page on the subject.  (I've heard many a Lord Acton quote but not that particularly poignant one.)

My single favorite quote is probably, "Generosity is a reflection of what one does with his or her own resources and not what he or she advocates the government do with everyone's money," by Ronald Reagan.  It echoes the very thing that most unnerved me about the self-congratulatory rhetoric I heard so often when I lived among the smug leftists of the American Northwest.  They were always so proud of how much progress they could create with tax money.

The posters are available in two sizes, 8.5 x 11" and 22 x 17".

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Red-haired Orphans: A North American Dream

Reading HBD Chick's HBD Day contribution, it occurred to me that both big North American countries have a favorite orphan.  In both cases, she's a girl.  And she's a red-head.  And she's named Anne.

Anne of Green Gables and Little Orphan Annie were, as far as I know, dreamed up completely independently in Canada and the United States.  They are different in many ways but their similarities are equally fascinating: both are about imaginative, charming girls who melt the hearts of both the grownups in the story and, presumably, the audience.  Canada's Anne is a school-teacher and lover of literature; in recent incarnations, America's Annie has been a singer.  Anne's father-figure is a shy, soft-spoken farmer who never married; Annie's is a (perhaps stereotypically) rich, pompous, generous American.

But that is all old hat.  What intrigues me about the stories is that they underscore what appears to me to be a love of orphans that, while surely not unique to the US and Canada, seems to be stronger than average here, if not much stronger.  (The only comparable figure I can think of to these girls is Pippi Longstocking, who seems to clarify the rule: warmth toward orphans is Nordish and/or Celto-Germanic.  But I am not a literature expert so I admit I am out on a limb.)

It is possible for an orphan to have a happy, healthy life anywhere, but in all too many places, it is quite unlikely.  Of course, with many mammals, an orphan could never survive at all--toothless young can't survive on their own and it is quite labor-intensive to raise them.  An unrelated adult or distant cousin has little genetic incentive to raise an orphan.

So, in a sense, a successful adoption, foster family, or even orphanage represents humanity conquering nature.  The same could be said of ascents of Mt. Everest.  It's possible for a human to climb any peak in the Himalayas (and Everest isn't nearly the most dangerous one) ... it's just not likely.  So it makes for exciting drama to make a movie about climbing a mountain, or surviving as an orphan.

Familiarity breeds contempt, they say, and therein lies a danger.  Our love of happy, charming, and intelligent orphans (Anne's academic prowess is noted frequently) creates a market for the successful-orphan genre, but as it becomes an entrenched genre it threatens to wash away common sense.  Most orphan stories are much darker, ranging from brutal orphanages to human trafficking.   Anne Shirley thrives partly because her environment is rich in healthy two-parent families brimming with gentle, engaged, masculine fathers and stern, energetic, caring mothers--the sort of environment that is on the wane in much of the West.

Hubris can be blinding, and therein lies the greater danger.  When a climber slips, he thanks his lucky stars that the other men on his tether kept their footing.  If several of them lose their footing at once, they're all likely to die.  Our love of flame-haired, energetic orphan girls is laudable; it's part of our distinct North American charm.  Our ability to understand, nurture, and educate people we're not related to is limited; it's a simple fact.  A preening, self-congratulating hubris tempts us to deny this fact.